Test all limits in the Nissan Navara
Test all limits in the Nissan Navara

Toyota Prado updated: More power, more possibilities

Dubbed by the automaker as the Prince of Africa, the Toyota Prado comes from a lineage of superb off-road capability, 4×4 prowess and the legendary Land Cruiser DNA. Much like Disney’s princes, the updated 2021 Land Cruiser Prado will undoubtedly make many a petrol-head weak in the knees. It certainly got my heart racing a little bit faster!

The current facelift of the Prado will most likely be the last in this generation (the fourth), but it is jam-packed with features and safety specs. The Land Cruiser Prado VX-L that we drove comes with everything and the kitchen sink, ticking all the boxes from comfort to capability. With adaptive cruise control to blind-spot monitoring as well as lane keep assist, there is not much more drivers can ask for from a safety perspective. From a connectivity point of view, the new Infotainment system with its 9” display audio touchscreen can be directly linked to any smart device by either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. It also includes audiovisual navigation in case you forgot your cable to connect your smart device.

New engine

The biggest bone of contention and criticism amongst Toyota fans for the past couple of years has been the barely apt power outage from the Prado. Excitement levels were thus high when the Adventure Afrika team learnt that the 2.8GD-6 engine introduced in the updated Hilux will now finally make its way to the Prado. 

This revolutionary new engine has received a raft of upgrades including a new ball-bearing turbocharger with a larger turbine and impeller, and improved engine rigidity and cooling. Better fuel economy is realised through optimised pistons and piston rings, changes to the cylinder block and head, higher fuel-injection flow rate and the adoption of high-performance materials for the exhaust manifold. This all adds up to an impressive 150kW and 500nm of torque. Additionally, a newly balanced shaft helps smooth out engine vibrations, improving NVH performance and contributing to an even higher degree of refinement.

Toyota claims fuel consumption at 7.9 litres/100km. Still, during our trip, which included some off-road driving, we managed an average of 9 litres/100km. CO2 emissions are down to 209 g/km. Fuel capacity is 150 litres with an 87-litre main tank and 63-litre sub tank. Maximum braked towing capacity increased to 3 000kg on 2.8 diesel models.

The verdict

Having driven the new 2.8 machine in the Hilux a week or so earlier, I was curious to see what it will do in the larger body of the Prado. And what a pleasure it was – we could feel the pronounced difference brought about by the new engine, now mated exclusively to a six-speed automatic gearbox, immediately. Never missing a beat and offering ample power supply while confidently finding the correct gear, even on passes and when over-taking, I can see myself using this vehicle in my daily commute or taking it into the far reaches of Africa. 

There is a wide range of accessories available from both Toyota dealers and your local 4×4 fitment centre. If you are planning to take it overland, I would suggest a decent set of All-Terrain tyres as the factory fitted tyres are a bit soft. Having said this, be prepared to lose on the fuel economy side with AT’s. 

I particularly enjoyed the Multi-Terrain Select System which allows a myriad of options, including Rock, Rock and Dirt, Mogul, Loose Rock, as well as Mud and Sand modes. While we could not try out each option, the rock-climbing ability was proven with success. It simply goes where you point it, without any objection. Sometimes viewed a the lazy off-roader’s gimmick, I found the panoramic view monitor very useful as it gives you a full scope of your surroundings. Using all four cameras, it allows excellent vantage points when you need to see what is in front or to your side. 

Finally, the crawl control function – although it sounds like gremlins are trying to break your drive-train – and the ability to raise your suspension makes this an incredibly capable off-road companion.  

The Prado Story

First Generation J70 Series

In the mid 80’s the Land Cruiser 70 series was being used increasingly for leisure, and this led to a heightened focus on comfort and style. So, to cater to those needs, the automaker added the wagon-type Land Cruiser to its line-up in October 1985. The Prado was only available in a short wheelbase and was equipped with a newly designed coil-spring suspension which resulted in superb comfort. In 1990 we saw the first long-wheelbase Prado to compete against the highly successful Mitsubishi Pajero, and by May 1993 the first diesel engine showed up in the line-up.

Second Generation J90 Series

In May 1996 the Land Cruiser Prado steered toward a more passenger-friendly 4-wheel-drive (4WD), and both the short and long-wheelbase models became larger than the previous models. By July 2000, we saw the introduction of the first 3-litre common rail diesel unit (1KD-FTV).

Third Generation J120 Series

Toyota introduced the third-generation Land Cruiser Prado in October 2002. The newly designed high rigidity frame delivered enhanced manoeuvrability, vehicle stability and quietness. The newly developed Torsion LSD transfer unit in the centre differential boosted both on-road and off-road performance. The active traction control system (TRC) could perform complex adjustments of uphill/downhill driving to improve off-road drivability, while the H∞-TEMS and electronically controlled rear air suspension systems reinforced on-road manoeuvrability, vehicle stability, and ride comfort.

Fourth Generation J150 Series

In September 2009 the current generation Land Cruiser Prado made its way to the South African market. While the Prado had been sharing the chassis with the Hilux Surf since May 1996, the two lines finally merged as the fourth-generation Prado. In the domestic market, only long-wheelbase models (2 790mm) were sold, although short-wheelbase models remained popular overseas.

New features included the crawl control system for facilitating off-road driving at a very low speed, as well as the Multi-Terrain Select System that could optimise the drive settings for any given off-road conditions. The removable third-row three-seaters of the J120 were replaced by fold-into-floor seats which seat only two people – which is also responsible for a loss of cargo capacity, the reduction in dual fuel capacity and usable height in the cargo compartment.

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